Everybody Come Aboard

by Nancy Bestor

193372_1082When I travel, I hang on to every brochure, receipt, and just about any other piece of paper I pick up. They’re great reminders of where I went, what I did, and how much something may have cost me. Although I don’t look back at all these documents, in case I have any questions, I know they’re there, piled up in a mess on a shelf in the garage. This includes boarding passes from all my flights. While it doesn’t seem likely that you would need to hang on to your boarding pass, if you are a member of a mileage program, I recommend hanging on to the pass until you see the miles in your airline account.

On Bob’s recent trip to India, he booked his ticket through United Airlines, but one leg of the trip (Tokyo to Delhi) was on ANA–All Nippon Airways. United credited Bob for every leg of the trip except the ANA portion (which was nearly 4,000 miles!), and of course, that is the boarding pass that he couldn’t find. United told him he had to contact ANA to get documentation for this leg of his trip, and ANA says since he booked the trip on United, United actually has all the documentation. He’ll continue to duke this out with United, but the moral of this story is hang on to your boarding pass until you see frequent flier mileage credit in your account. Then feel free to recycle at will!

How United Did NOT Break My Guitar

by Bob Bestor

DSC02757We’ve all seen travelers lugging oversized bags on board and straining to cram them into the overhead bins. And when we see it we ask ourselves, “Man, how’d that guy get that on board?” Well, it’s likely that he skipped the ticket counter altogether by checking in and printing his boarding pass online. Then he was able to head straight to security where the TSA didn’t bother to do anything but x-ray his luggage. After that the gate agent was the first and only airline representative who could have even looked at his luggage before he got on board. But gate agents are often working alone and doing two or three things at once. So he made it. And oversized or not, as long as he could stuff it overhead, he was good.

On my recent trip to India I was that guy. Well, sort of. But at least I did it with the blessing of a friendly United gate agent.

I arrived at Rogue Valley International Medford Airport (no, really—that’s what it’s called) with a standard, maximum-sized 22” wheeled carry-on, a daypack, and a guitar in a soft-sided case. If you’re counting, and the airlines usually do, that’s three bags. Now I was fully prepared to check the suitcase, although my preference was not to check anything. But traveling internationally, I knew that at least my checked bag would be free.

I was not able to print my boarding pass online, so I had to go to the United ticket counter first, where I was only asked if I “wanted” to check anything. Of course I answered “no”. TSA didn’t take notice either and soon I was at the gate with my three bags and my boarding pass in hand. The gate agent took a look at me and my bags and frowned. “Do I have to check something?” I asked. “Well, she said, “you’re not allowed to bring three items on board. But, a few years ago a country singer had a big hit with a song about how United breaks guitars.  So I’m not going to be the person who starts another round of that.” And voila, no checking for me. This time at least.

Well Dark Clouds Are Rollin’ In

by Nancy Bestor

Last month, when returning from a week long vacation in the Caribbean, my family’s final flight home from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon was canceled. This was after we had already been traveling for nearly 24 hours. The weather in San Francisco was rainy, and there was a light fog outside of the airport, but I’ve seen much worse weather, so it came as quite a surprise to me when United first delayed and then canceled our 10am flight.
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Once we realized what had happened, Bob and I quickly went to the United customer service counter to see what could be done for us. The United agent informed us that due to the weather, our plane (one of the small jet-propelled types that flies in and out of Medford) could not land in San Francisco, which was the reason our flight was cancelled. There were two more flights for Medford scheduled that day, so she put us on the stand-by list. We were numbers 4-7 on the list however, and knowing that the small planes only seat 25ish, we figured our chances of getting on the flight were slim. The agent said those flights also had a high likelihood of being canceled, and she could not confirm seats out for us to Medford until Monday, two days later, on another airline. Finally, she told us since the delay was weather related, United would not offer us any hotel or meal compensation.

We really needed to get home on Saturday, as our oldest daughter had a ride scheduled from Medford back to college in Corvallis (go Beavers!) on Sunday morning. We could take a chance on getting four stand-by seats later in the day, on a plane that may or may not have been able to arrive in San Francisco, or we could cut our losses and rent a one-way car. We cut our losses.
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We booked the car from our iPad while we were walking to the car rental agency in the airport. I had learned this lesson after friends of ours were stuck in a similar situation in Seattle, and the people in line in front of them booked the last one-way rental car available at the airport. Ours wasn’t cheap. The one-way rental cost $225. And we had to drive five plus hours, AND return the rental car to the airport. But our options were pretty limited at that point. By the time we drove our rental car out of the airport parking lot, several other United passengers who had been milling about our gate were in line to pick up cars too.

I can’t fault United Airlines in this situation (I know, shocking, right?). United really was doing all it could to get us home, there just weren’t any planes to do it. I can’t even fault them for not offering us hotel or meal compensation. San Francisco is an iffy city for weather. If they offered compensation every time a plane was delayed or canceled due to weather, they would likely not be in business.

The bottom line is this was an unfortunate situation that was out of every human’s control. We spent an additional $225 on our trip, and five hours in the car, but we made it home on Saturday, only several hours later than we would have made it home had our 10:00 am flight left on time. Travel doesn’t always work out the way you plan it. But then again, neither does life.